Any way you slice it, Rhode Islanders love their pizza. Whether it is a box of pizza strips, a slice of New York-style, baked in a brick oven, flatbread, grilled over an open flame, deep dish, gluten-free, thick-crust Sicilian-style or thin-crust pub-style; we just can’t get enough of it. In 2016, the website Estately revealed that Rhode Island has the sixth most pizza places per capita (West Virginia was number one). They also found that we Google the word “pizza” more than any other state. Rhode Islanders all have their favorite places to get a slice, but one spot that has been generating a lot of buzz is South Kingstown’s Pasquale’s Pizzeria Napoletana. It specializes in Neapolitan-style pie and was the perfect place to spend a recent Saturday night.
Pasquale’s is located in the South County Commons shopping center on Route 1. It was opened in 2015 by Pasquale Illiano, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1995 and opened his first restaurant, Vetrano’s in Westerly, in 2002. Based on my experience, I’m guessing that Pasquale’s is already a local favorite. Arriving at 5:30, I thought I would be getting the jump on the dinner crowd, but the wait was already 30 to 45 minutes. The hostess took my cell phone number and told me I would be texted when my table was ready. I love this! Rather than being squished in the crowded lobby of the restaurant, we sat comfortably next door in Brewed Awakenings. When our table was ready, my phone buzzed, and we were seated immediately. The space is bright and open. With brick walls, hardwood floors, pendant lights and a pounded tin ceiling, the space is bright and open and feels a world away from the strip mall outside. In addition to the dining room, there’s a small bar with nine seats where you can sit and watch the pizzas being made.
Kicking off our Saturday night right, we ordered a round of beer. Pasquale’s has small but well-crafted beer and wine lists. Two of us ordered the Revival Fanny ($7) and the other two chose Peak Organic High Note ($6). One of my guests was a vegetarian and it was difficult to find an appetizer that was meat-free. We opted for the Antipasto ($16), and although we all found something on the platter to enjoy, some of the vegetarian-friendly items on the platter were sitting on, in or around meat (we should have specified that we wanted everything plated separately). The platter was literally overflowing with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, olives, nuts, grilled pizza bread and fresh grilled vegetables. I didn’t think the three of us would be able to finish it all, but we ate just about every bite. My favorite was the ultra-creamy burrata cheese, but everything was tasty and fresh.
Pasquale’s serves three types of pizza – Neapolitan Wood-Fired, New York-Style and Grandma. For the purposes of this review, we concentrated on the Neapolitan. Authentic Neapolitan pizza has to be made to strict specifications, and the pizzaiolos (pizza makers) at Pasquale’s have been trained by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. This association of pizza gurus dictates the specific types of flour, tomatoes and cheese to use, as well as the exact thickness to roll the dough. With authentic Neapolitan pizza, nothing is left to chance. Pasquale’s has an imported wood-fired pizza oven that heats to approximately 900 degrees. It is so hot, your pizza will be cooked to perfection in about a minute. In fact, Pasquale’s Neapolitan pizza is meant to be savored fresh from the oven, so it’s available only to dine-in customers.
We ordered two pizzas, each 12 inches in diameter – the classic Margherita ($12) and the Arturo ($18). The Margherita is a study in pizza perfection. The crust had a light char on it and a great airy, yeasty flavor. The toppings on a Margherita pizza seem basic and minimal – San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil – yet, there is a reason this pizza is considered a classic. It is perfect just the way it is. The Arturo was slightly more involved: The same lightly charred crust was there, but it was topped with buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced prosciutto, arugula, extra virgin olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese. We wished we had saved room for dessert because the dessert pizza (topped with Nutella, toasted hazelnuts, powdered sugar and kosher salt) sounded amazing.
Pasquale’s has more than just pizza on the menu. There is also a wide range of pasta dishes, all made with authentic Italian ingredients. I would have liked to try the Fettuccini Pistachio made with pistachio pesto, crispy pancetta and parmesan cream sauce. They also have classic Italian-style sandwiches like the Mortadella Sandwich with imported mortadella, pistachio pesto, arugula, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone.
No matter where your favorite pizza joint is located, a visit to Pasquale’s is a chance to experience authentic Neapolitan pizza here in Rhode Island. If you can’t get to Naples, this is the next best thing – and you don’t need a passport to get there.
Pasquale’s Pizzeria Napoletana
60 South County Commons Way, South Kingstown